Early detection of ocular melanoma saves Elkhart man's vision

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Jim Hunt of Elkhart is urging everyone to keep up with their regular eye exams.

Jim Hunt

He says it not only saved his vision, but saved his life.

Jim spends his retirement volunteering at his church. The former elementary school principal enjoys taking in some of nature's beauty, one of the many sights he never takes for granted.

A couple years ago, Jim noticed a flickering in his right eye. It wasn't until his routine eye exam that he had his answer.

"After she had done it, she said, 'I found something,' and she drew a picture of the inside of my eyeball and showed me little spaces. 'This is back here, and I believe it's a kind of melanoma,'" Jim recalls.

One of Jim's doctors, Allison Pernic, says unlike skin cancer, there is little to no evidence that ocular melanoma is caused by sun exposure. It's rare but also very aggressive.

"Ocular melanoma has a high rate of metastasizing, which is scary because it's not detectable all the time," Dr. Pernic says. "That's why early detection is important, but there are various stages, and with that comes different prognoses."

In Jim's case, it was genetic. Thanks to early detection, radiation therapy saved his vision.

"The exposure to that radiation after three nights was enough to cause it to deflate, and I go back every 6 months," Jim says. "I am in a good place right now."

"We were able to save his eye and his vision. He still has good vision to this day, so he was very lucky," Dr. Pernic explains.

One year to the day after his procedure, Jim married his wife, Darcy. It's a day he often looks back on with crystal clear vision.

"I'm just thankful for every day I do have, and I want to make the best out of it," he says.

The takeaway message from Jim and Dr. Pernic: Make sure you are getting your regular eye exam.

For more details on ocular melanoma, visit ocularmelanoma.org